Friday, May 4, 2012

Habs: Defensive-zone Success-rates

Mathieu Darche was the Canadiens most successful defending-player

I have tracked every puck-possession play by every Montreal Canadiens player this season; a total of 87,402 events.

The eventual goal of any defending player in the defensive-zone is to remove or regain possession of the puck. This can be accomplished by winning a puck-battle (either with a hit or with a stick-check), recovering a loose-puck, blocking a shot, or intercepting a pass. The graph below is a visual representation of every Montreal Canadiens skater's success-rate when engaging in one of these events. The calculation allows us to quantify each player's ability to play defense by either removing or regaining puck-possession from the opposing team. The events used in this calculation include:


  • Defensive-zone puck-battles
  • Lost defensive-zone puck-battles
  • Defensive-zone loose-puck recoveries
  • Lost races to loose-pucks
  • Blocked shot
  • Failed blocked shots (puck goes under stick or through legs)
  • Blocked/intercepted passes
  • Failed Blocked/ intercepted passes (puck goes under stick or through legs)
  • Successful poke-checks

These results are restricted to even-strength play in the defensive-zone. 


Mathieu Darche had the Habs top defensive-zone success-rate when attempting to obtain or remove puck-possession from the opposition. He was successful during 75% of these events, and was one of only 4 forwards with success-rates above 70%. Darche was successful with 55% of his defensive-zone puck-battles, and was able to recover 173 loose-pucks. He also blocked 31 shots, and intercepted 39 passes.

Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty, and Lars Eller were the only other forwards with success-rates above 70%. Gionta's success was the product of an ability to win puck-battles, and intercept passes; while Eller was successful winning puck-battles and recovering loose-pucks. Pacioretty's high success-rate was helped by his ability to recover loose-pucks, and intercept passes.

The lowest success-rates belonged to Brad Staubitz and Scott Gomez. Both players success-rates were just above 60%, and they were the only players with sub-63% ratings. Gomez won just 42% of his defensive-zone puck-battles. He blocked only 15 shots the entire season, while 15 other opposition shots either went through his legs or under his stick before arriving on net.

Staubitz won a solid 67% of his defensive-zone puck-battles. But, he was successful with only 32% of his attempts to block shots, and only 50% of his attempts to intercept passes.

The top success-rates among defensemen belonged to Josh Gorges, and Fred St. Denis. Gorges earned a success-rate of 72%, while St. Denis was close behind at 71%. Gorges won 61% of his defensive-zone puck-battles, and blocked more shots than any other player. He intercepted 155 opposition passes; second only to PK Subban in this category.

St. Denis was successful with only 48% of his defensive-zone puck-battles. That said, he was successful with 67% of his attempts to block shots, and demonstrated an impressive poke-check; which he used both successfully and often.

Four defensemen had sub-67% success-rates when attempting to obtain or remove puck-possession from the opposition. The lowest success-rate belonged to Raphael Diaz (63%), while Alexei Emelin (65%), Tomas Kaberle (66%), and Yannick Weber (65%) also struggled. All 3 players struggled winning puck-battles, and maintaining their defensive-zone coverage. Emelin and Diaz also struggled intercepting passes, while Kaberle and Weber were unable to block shots. In fact, both players blocked fewer shots than they saw go through their legs or under their stick.

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